ALA Annual 2018 in New Orleans!

 

Hi everyone!

Here are some highlights from my trip down to New Orleans for ALA Annual (June 21st- June 26th). This was my first ALA Annual Conference and it was absolutely invigorating. Not only did I get to meet many authors and illustrators, I was able to catch up with friends doing crucial diversity, equity and social justice work in libraries and schools across the country. In many ways, it was a chance to re-charge and get inspiration for the work I do at home in Cincinnati.

 

On the first day, I got up early and waited in line for opening speaker Michelle Obama with my roommates Kazia and Stacy (<3). Though we waited in line for five hours, we had a fun time talking, exploring the massive Morial Convention Center and relaxing. Carla Hayden, our Librarian of Congress, walked by our line and everyone freaked out. It was surreal being in the same room as our Former First Lady AND our Librarian of Congress, two powerful and intelligent Black women. Before Michelle came out to speak, talented young musicians from Trombone Shorty’s foundation came on stage and performed for us and soon after, Trombone Shorty joined them. That was a really special way to welcome us to the city.

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Freedom in Congo Square

FreedomInCongoSquare

Image Credit: Little Bee Books (Bonnier Publishing Group), Carole Boston Weatherford/R. Gregory Christie

In this beautiful book, we learn about the slaves of New Orleans who toiled and eagerly anticipated their day of rest because on that day, they headed to Congo Square to let their bodies flow freely and revel in the music and culture of home. Congo Square was their place of freedom, their chance to celebrate who they were and simply enjoy each other’s company. Eventually Jazz would develop out of the music played at this space.

Freedom in Congo Square has an excellent Forward and Author’s Note that I highly recommend reading. Taking time to summarize and teach the history is important because it adds to the experience of the book. Children with knowledge of slavery will easily understand how important a day to rest, a day to celebrate was to slaves. It’s easy to see the joy and relief in their bodies as they dance and sing and drum. Weatherford’s poetic language and description of plantation life during each day of the week builds anticipation for what readers know is coming, that glorious Sunday.

CongoSquare2

Image Credit: Little Bee Books (Bonnier Publishing Group), Carole Boston Weatherford/R. Gregory Christie

The rhythm and rhyme of this book is great for reading aloud to children and Weatherford always has the coolest illustrators for her books. Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century is both textually and visually gorgeous. Freedom in Congo Square is no different. Christie’s collaged paintings are inspiring; the slaves have black, beautiful skin highlighted with blue-gray and long, limber bodies. Their long limbs are bent over in the cotton field BUT are also outstretched in jubilation at Congo Square. I love the bright, joyful colors of his paints and the cover of the book is striking with its use of yellow and black.

This is an excellent book that tells the story of an important safe and creative space for enslaved people during Slavery. What a great new release for 2016! If your family takes a trip down to New Orleans, why not add Congo Square to your list of places to visit?

 

Recommended for: 1st-2nd Grade and Up
Great for: History, Slavery, Celebration, Determination, Music, Music History, New Orleans, Community, Family, We Need Diverse Books, Diversity, Cultural Diversity, Oppression, Spirituality, Discussion, Days of the Week, Rhyme, Rhythm, Read Aloud, Jazz, African American, Africa
Book Info: Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford/Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, 2016 Little Bee Books (Bonnier Publishing Group), ISBN: 9781499801033

Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans

MarvelousCornelius

Image Credit: Chronicle Books LLC, Phil Bildner/John Parra

 

A good teacher encourages you to learn more on your own. One of the things I like most about Marvelous Cornelius is that Bildner shares Cornelius’ story in the form of a folk tale, then in the author’s note, encourages readers to learn more about him. This is important.

Marvelous Cornelius tells the story of Cornelius Washington from New Orleans who was a pillar of his community. Was he a politician? A Policeman? A Teacher? No. He was a jaunty, show-stopping garbage man in the French Quarter who took pride in his job. After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Cornelius found the spirit within himself to continue doing his job well; he worked to make his home beautiful again and with help pouring in from near and far, he swept the streets. Bildner incorporates sound and rhythm elements into the story, which gives it energy and makes it fun to read aloud.

I’ve never been to New Orleans but like many Americans, I grew up learning a bit about the music, the food, the history, and the energy of the place. Especially after the hurricane, our eyes and hearts were once again turned down there. Bildner writes a story that honors a man who was very much a part of his city and the illustrator, John Parra, transports us to NOLA with his illustrations. He uses lots of earthy, rich tones and the paint is scratchy on the canvas. People with beautiful hues of skin color fill the streets in celebration and Cornelius stands tall, lanky and strong with his dark brown skin, orange gloves and gray earring. I really like Parra’s style; Green is a Chile Pepper is another one to check out if you like his style as well.

Marvelous Cornelius is a very special biography picture book so be sure to check it out. 🙂

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Biography, We Need Diverse Books, Cultural Diversity, New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina, Community, Local Hero, African-American, Non-Fiction
Book Info: Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans by Phil Bildner/Illustrated by John Parra, 2015 Chronicle Books LLC, ISBN: 9781452125787